In a moment which could have significant ramifications for the entire aviation industry, a solar-powered plane has landed in Switzerland following the completion of the first ever successful night flight.
The Solar Impulse plane is powered by 12,000 super-efficient solar cells, which are able to capture enough power to allow the plane to stay in the air once the sun’s rays have faded.
Solar impulse reached heights of 8,700m during its 26-hour flight – both the longest and highest recorded flight for a solar-power plane - before landing at Payerne airport this morning.
At the controls of the four-engine aircraft was former Swiss fighter jet pilot André Borschberg. He explained: “During the whole of the flight, I just sat there and watched the battery charge level rise and rise.
“Sitting in a plane producing more energy than it consumes is a fantastic feeling,” added Mr Borschberg, who is also co-founder of the Solar Impulse project.
Following the successful trial designer Bertrand Piccard explained the dream of perpetual flight was very much a reality.
“This was the moment that proved the mission was successful, we made it,” he said
“Nothing can prevent us from another day and night, and the myth of perpetual flight.”
He went on to explain the plane had emerged from the darkened skies with enough battery lift for a further three hours flight, more than the team had expected.
Address journalists after the flight Mr Borschberg concluded: “This is a highly symbolic moment: flying by night using solely solar power is a stunning manifestation of the potential that clean technologies offer today to reduce the dependency of our society on fossil fuels.”